Message from the Publisher

Terrie LlyodTerrie Lloyd

As I write this, the temperature outside is 36°C, the air conditioner in my bedroom is on the fritz and the kids are irritable. In mid-August, Japan suffered its highest air temperature ever, breaking a 74-year old record. The unlucky hot spot was Kumagaya, just north of Tokyo, where it was a sweltering 40.9°C (about 106°F ).

There is no doubt that something is going on with the weather. Real families are suffering real losses, and in this last heat wave, 12 people, mainly elderly, died. Maybe such tragedies will wake up the Japanese government and get them to devote some real resources and incentives to get industry and consumers to go green.

Although many people feel that Japan is already doing quite a bit to improve the environment, with solar cells, hybrid cars, and power-saving air conditioners, these ‘contributions’ are not stopping people buying and burning more energy and producing greenhouse gasses in record quantities. Despite the massive global PR and economic benefits that Japan would reap if it took leadership on this issue, I’m surprised how little direction is being shown by government.

Back in the ’90s, Japan seized leadership in solar cells, Sharp and other companies became the world’s largest producers. This was achieved partly through generous government tax incentives for home owners/builders to install them. However, over the last few years, these subsidies have dwindled to almost zero. Germany is now the leading installer of photovoltaic systems in the world. Renewing the tax break would significantly improve local demand for solar cells and prevent the loss of solar production and expertise to other nations.

Of course the heat isn’t all bad. Everything from tourism to ‘Cool Biz’ business attire and soda drinks, not to mention air conditioners, have all performed well over the last two years as a result of the heat. Asahi and Kirin last year both reported August sales about 10% above average, and this year, sales were 10% higher again.

Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of this very hot summer will be the carbon emissions traders, who are relying on the Kyoto Protocol and environmental politics to position themselves for one of the biggest commercial bonanzas of all time—trading the rights for thin air. More sweltering weather like this and you can be sure that voters will start to push their members to do something about global warming. Laws will be passed to trade emissions, penalize emitters, investigate and study the environment, introduce non-carbon based energy, and many other variations of the theme. Although the Kyoto Accord was not signed by the US, Australia, and others, many nations did sign it and are taking the agreement seriously. Japan is at the forefront of such efforts, and Japanese trading firms as well as the government are literally pouring billions of dollars into creating this market.

Regardless of the politics of global warming, I do believe that the current trend towards greener products and environmental awareness needs to be encouraged. Not only will less particulates in the air be healthier for us and our kids, the scientific and financial innovations required to produce such products and services will provide Japan with an economic stimulus that will see it maintain its place in the world of commerce, with or without oil.

 

Terrie Lloyd's signature

Terrie Lloyd
Publisher, J@pan Inc Magazine
Writer of Terrie’s Take
terrie@japaninc.com

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Re:Message from the Publisher
Dear Terrie,
I am your fan! Back when you used to publish Computing Japan, I asked you a question and as a reward you sent me a freshly printed-- I could smell the ink-- magazine. You encouraged me to be a subscriber, which I didn't follow though :-)

Today I found yet another informative and though provoking article by you.
Can you add something to it in your next issue? What I have in mind is that the plastic bag culture of Japanese people. Of course, I am generalizing here, but won't you agree that 9 out of 10 Japanese do not stir when a convenience store clerk packages his/her onigiri and a coffee, etc in a plasic bag? Most of these people are carrying their salaryman/woman bag (briefcase?) and they can and should put the purchase inside. We could exempt those who go for buying groceries in the evening and bring the stuff in 2 or 3 or 4 plastic bags, but these young to middle aged people have no excuse. what do you think? I wrote because you have a big audience and if you are able to change even one person's mind, that would be something.
Let me read what you think in the next issue.

Sincerely

I agree about reducing the use of plastic bags - its all about changing people's habits.

One way is to carry a couple of already used bags and put your new purchases in there.

In the UK and France, some places have stopped using one trip plastic bags. Instead you can buy (for a small amount) a long-life plastic bag - sometimes called a 'bag for life' - which will be replaced free by the supermarket if/when it breaks. Others are using natural fibres such as cotton or jute for example - see

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article... or

https://shop.wwf.org.uk/wwf_bags/large_shopping_bag_green

I agree. The use of plastic bag should be discouraged at any cost. In Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand, they have been replaced by paper bags. In Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, the municipal corporation has promoted to use the jute bags, ronically, promoting jute industries.

Geoinformatics Centre
AIT

In Germany, no supermarket will give you plastic bags. They will happily sell you one for 10 - 25 Euro cents, or a far more robust cotton / jute one for around 50 Euro cents: this means consumers have a direct incentive to provide their own long-lasting bags, and only buy plastic ones when necessary.

Other retail outlets (e.g. department stores) do provide complimentary bags, but often they will often ask whether you need one; or if you're carrying a bag already, whether they should place your purchase in that one for you.

There's also a fairly efficient recycling system in place ("Grüner Punkt") for packaging materials.

And it has been like that in Germany for more than 15 years.

Have you ever tried asking the typical Japan chain-store clerk not to put your purchase in plastic bag #1, before putting it in paper bag #2 and plastic bag #3?

The young clerks stop completely, and don't know what to do. Japanese under 30 are members of the "Manual Generation" and cannot understand why a customer would want to skip one unnecessary step out of many. If it is not in the manual, they can't function.

I've stopped asking, because the robots can't complete my purchase unless it is in the exact, wasteful order that they have been taught.

I've never had trouble getting a clerk to skip the bag, and I ask every time (if I don't ask, of course, nearly everything gets bagged). Just try "fukuro wa ii desu," or the still clearer "fukuro wa irimasen". I understand your comment about the robotic attitude of many clerks though - I definitely have had trouble changing part of a set menu, for example.

Recently, I have do not have any problems with asking the clerks not to pack my purchases in the plastic or paper bags. I try to bring a re-usable eco-bag every time, and with the global popularity of the eco-bag, and its popularity here in Japan, I am sure the robots will adapt, although it might take a long time.

I like to get my plastic bags from the local supermarket because I have found all kinds of uses for them.

I use them as nappy disposers for the particularly humming ones my baby boy produces. We use them as general rubbish bags. They make great sock/tights/underpants sorters in the drawers. My daughters kindie will gladly take them for the kids to make kites out of. I use a couple in lieu of plastic gloves when I clean out the litter tray. And of course I take them to the supermarket to re-fill with my new shopping. If you get creative there are lots of different uses for these bags.

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